Controversial Zapiro Religious cartoon

Zapiro's latest religion-themed cartoon with Lord Ganesha causes much controversy

Latest Controversial Zapiro Cartoon

Jonathan Shapiro, commonly known as Zapiro, is widely acknowledged as an excellent cartoonist. Some of his more recent material may be a bit lacking, but no doubt it’s hard to be consistently clever when you have to regularly rehash the same issues in South Africa. Occasionally though, he does get it completely wrong.

This week there is an uproar in the Hindu community about Zapiro’s most recent cartoon – one depicting the Lord Ganesha holding piles of cash and a cricket bat whilst overlooking Cricket SA sacrificing its chief executive, Haroon Lorgat.

Latest Controversial Zapiro Cartoon

Latest Zapiro Ganesha Cartoon angered many Hindus

First, and foremost, the cartoon is wrong because it plainly misrepresents the facts.

It’s wrong, not just inappropriate, to represent India, let alone the sporting body BCCI, by a religious symbol. The news being tackled in the cartoon has to do with sports – it has nothing to do with religion.

Using Ganesha in this cartoon, is about as stupid as putting Pravin Gordhan in the cartoon to represent the BCCI in India – there is some connection to India, sure. But is it relevant? No. Is it appropriate? No.

The second reason is that, consequential to the above, the cartoon unfairly tarnishes the brand of the Hindu religion. It is for this reason that Hindus should rightfully be upset.

While Wonkie would have little to say about tarnishing the brand of Jacob Zuma when Zapiro depicts him with his traveling shower-head, in this case there is no basis for involving religion or Ganesha in the above cartoon. Further, inappropriately depicting Ganesha as angry, vindictive and corrupt is not only disrespectful, but also demonstrates a special level of ignorance about Hinduism.

Since Zapiro is obviously not stupid, we can probably assume that he has enough sense to know that the issue is about cricket, not religion. This begs the question why did he use Ganesha in this cartoon? The three reasons that come to mind are:
(a) he could not come up something appropriate to represent BCCI;
(b) he thought it would be funny;
(c) it would be controversial;

The first option is doubtful – Zapiro has an uncanny ability to tie relevant things together. If he really wanted to, he would have found a clever way with some effort.

If he thought it would be funny, then he should probably realise now that it’s about as funny as it would be if he ran around naked in Klerksdorp, randomly yelling: “All blacks are stupid!”. That act would be equally irrelevant and that claim would also have no basis in fact. Still, you’d probably find a few morons from the Boeremag who’d swear it was the funniest thing. At the very least, one would expect Zapiro to have enough EQ to evaluate whether the cartoon would be unfairly ridiculing a religion, and to weigh that up against his attempt to raise a smirk.

This leaves the remaining “if you can’t make it funny, then at least make it controversial – good for publicity and all that” option. Now make no mistake, Wonkie has no issue with cartoons that involve Ganesha, or religion – Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or otherwise. Many are apt, particularly because followers of religions tend to be supremely hypocritical and often deserve to be ridiculed. To use a religious symbol inappropriately to generate eyeballs through controversy though, is tacky. It is something one would expect from second-rate tabloid thinkers, not a clever cartoonist.

Unfortunately, it appears that Zapiro’s response to the Hindu reaction is rather pathetic:

“I’m not out to court controversy [Yeah right!]. I wanted to do a cartoon that was intelligible to the average reader in South Africa. Something that would speak to people and something that showed what people have been feeling. In doing so I look for imagery that I feel will work. I certainly did not set out to offend a group of people.”

Only a complete idiot would believe that this cartoon would not be found offensive – especially since any religious imagery is obviously sensitive, and more so in this case because it completely misrepresents the religion.

Wonkie would love to hear your thoughts on Zapiro’s latest controversial cartoon – please click here to comment!

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Related articles on Zapiro, free speech, and religious cartoons:

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  3. Easter Bunny causes religious mayhem
  4. Politics and Religion in South Africa

Leave your COMMENT on Zapiro and the controversial cartoon!

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  1. Get a LIFE!!!

  2. In India cricket is like a religion, as rugby is in SA and even more so in NZ. That’s how I view this cartoon and I think it correctly portrays the sentiment Zapiro’s trying to convey.
    People are way too sensitive about their religions and their symbols. There are much more important things to get on with in life.

    • Wonkie agrees – people do take these things way too seriously. Still, when something people value is unfairly attacked, they are well within their rights to defend it. The BCCI and cricket have nothing to do with Hinduism so portraying the religion as corrupt or vindictive is simply wrong. Again, if there were a religious context to the cricket issue, Wonkie would have no issue with the cartoon using Ganesha to convey a message. It is not appropriate for India and cricket to be represented by a religious symbol.

  3. Clifton Morreira says

    The quality of Zapiro’s cartoons have deteriorated significantly… resorting to cheap shots just to create controversy because he can’t think of anything funny to say – pretty sad!

    I agree with Wonkie – if the issue involved religion it may have been more appropriate

  4. Only a complete idiot would make a blanket statement claiming that only complete idiots would find the cartoon inoffensive. This sort of statement demonstrates the religious intolerance of fanatics who destroy all and sundry in their misguided belief that they are right and everyone who disagrees with them is wrong

    • Gavin, perhaps you should try reading what was was written properly before letting your fingers do the typing: “Only a complete idiot would believe that this cartoon would not be found offensive” – It is a valid and reasonable proposition that any religious depiction of this sort will offend some people and that is exactly the point that is being made. If Zapiro believed otherwise then yes, he is a complete idiot.

      Your comment misses the point of the article entirely. If the issue involved the Hindu religion, by all means depict Ganesha doing handstands while flapping his ears if that imagery projects the satire. It’s not a question about intolerance in this case, it’s a question of appropriateness and relevance. Of what relevance is Hinduism to BCCI, or the cricketing issue at hand?

  5. Wonkie, usually i support Zapiro, virtually on principle because the enemy of my enemy is my friend. But i think you got it spot on. The cartoon is way off sides.

  6. Jews, Christians, Muslims, are usually (well deserving) targets. But Hindus are not, that’s because Hinduism is almost impossible to understand by non Hindus. How then can we understand. However Hinduism stands as a symbol of India, Zapiro’s use of Ganesh might be inappropriate but is enough to waken all the chilli addicts out of their reverie.

    • Garth, again another comment missing the point of this article. Wonkie would have NO ISSUE with Zapiro making a cartoon satirizing Hinduism, Ganesha and all – like most religions, there is no shortage of hypocritical things Hindus do that deserve a poke. But this is taking a poke that’s not relevant to the context of the issue, and is therefore unfairly ridiculing the religion – none of the cricket decisions made were based on religious grounds and to associate it as such is misrepresentative. The BCCI is not a Hindu body, it’s an Indian cricket body. Ganesha is not the God of Cricket for that matter either. Associating what is happening in the cricket world with a specific religion is nothing more than tabloid attempt to create controversy.

      • a-maize-ingly-corny says

        Yes – Ganesha is NOT the God of Cricket – but he IS the God of success with the power to remove all obstacles. In India money also seems to have the power to remove obstacles. So, it can be argued that that Indian Cricket – with all its corruption and illegal gambling and match-fixing – COULD be represented by a powerful symbol of India (not just of Hinduism) holding fistfuls of currency.
        This imagery aside, the cartoon is, obviously, specifically aimed at the South African Cricket Board and its pandering to unsavoury tactics and unwise dealings. Haroon Lorgat would be wise to disassociate himself from these shady activities before he, himself, falls victim as in the cartoon!

        • Sure, again Wonkie’s point remains that India is not Hinduism, nor is it symbolised by Ganesha. The same applies for BCCI… and the cartoon, by singling out Ganesha, rather than a symbol of all India, portrays it as such – clearly at least to the Hindu readers. Hence the argument about using Pravin Gordhan in the article – just because a tenuous links exists, doesn’t mean it’s appropriate or representative of the facts.

          Consider this analogy: Some men fitting Zapiro’s general physical characteristics are paedophiles. Therefore, it’s ok to make a cartoon depicting Zapiro as a paedophile, just because it might be funny or give the public some cheap thrill. Zapiro’s brand would get tarnished (can’t you just see it, little stuffed toys with a Zapiro likeness wearing “I’m a happy Paedophile” t-shirt? 😉 – somehow Wonkie doubts he’ll take that as acceptable imagery. Assuming that Zapiro is not, in fact, a paedophile, what the cartoonist has done has unfairly misrepresented/ ridiculed him because of some tenuous link. All Wonkie is saying is that the Hindus, like Zapiro in this paedophile example, have grounds to be angry about what happened.

          Again, if Zapiro was making a cartoon about religious hypocrisy in Hinduism and he depicts Lord Shiva eating a juicy Big Mac whilst preaching to respect all life – no doubt many Hindus would go beserk, but Wonkie would more likely be caught criticizing those Hindu followers in that instance than Zapiro. There has to a fair basis for ridicule and satire – it’s wrong to just make stuff up and damage reputation in any form just because you feel like it.

          • a-maize-ingly-corny says

            So – what would you use to symbolise all of India? – Sachin Tendulkar? – No – that would cause world-wide controversy rather than Hindu controversy. – The Wheel ??? – how would a wheel hold a cricket bat or oodles and oodles of cash?
            Nearly everything in India has a religious symbolism and the Hindu symbols are the most recognisable world-wide!
            One of the most recognisable symbols of Brazil and Rio de Janeiro in particular is the image of Sugarloaf Mountain with its sculpture of Jesus with His arms extended. If Zapiro wanted to do a cartoon about Rio or Brazil and used this image to indicate the location, do you think Christians or Roman Catholics would turn this into a religious controversy? NO!!!
            This “controversy” just shows how narrow-minded some of the followers of one of the world’s most open faiths can be. Offended Hindus should grow up and get a life like the rest of the world. (Oops! – a lot of Muslims too!)

          • Sorry corny – just because you, or Zapiro, can’t think of anything appropriate to depict India doesn’t make the cartoon suddenly acceptable.

            Incidentally, if Zapiro used Sachin Tendulkar in his cartoon, Sachin would have a decent case for libel. If you were wrongly associated with something you deem distasteful and that tarnished your brand/ image/ standing in the community or whatever, it would not bother you? Doubtful you’d answer that it wouldn’t, if that reputation is of any real value to you.

            “Getting a life” sounds like the trite response to use here if you can’t think of a proper argument pro-Zapiro.

          • a-maize-ingly-corny says

            Firstly, my lack of an alternate suggestion of something appropriate to represent India is nothing for you to moan about since you, also, have failed to come up with an all-encompassing India icon or an icon to represent Indian Cricket. Surely you wouldn’t want to offend the Muslim community by suggesting the Taj Mahal as an appropriate icon for India.
            Secondly, my mention of Sachin Tendulkar, whom I respect as a cricket icon not only for India but for the world, was not a serious suggestion but achieved the desired result – a knee-jerk from you.
            Thirdly, I don’t need a “proper argument pro-Zapiro” – his right to depict whatever, however and whenever is guaranteed by our (perhaps precarious) Constitution so no other “argument” is needed.
            As for tarnishing my image, I have reached an age when I see the truth of the old saying that whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. My own self-image is tarnish-proof and I feel only sympathetic sorrow for those who wish to tarnish it!

          • 1. Wonkie is not moaning about anything – this was an article why Zapiro’s cartoon is wrong. All Wonkie is saying is just because Zapiro, or you, can’t come up with an appropriate representation of BCCI doesn’t make his cartoon acceptable. Wonkie couldn’t care less about BCCI and Lorgat and is not taking on the job of making a better cartoon.

            2. It’s not a knee-jerk reaction corny. Wonkie’s is trying to illustrate (apparently unsuccessfully) why what Zapiro did is wrong in this instance. Substitute Sachin Tendulkar for an entire religion in that argument. If it’s wrong for Tendulkar, surely it would be wrong to brand Hinduism in the same way. Zapiro is associating two things that have nothing to do with each other.

            3. Actually there are laws against slander and libel so falling back on the Constitution doesn’t automatically give one the right to do as one pleases. Perhaps you don’t value your reputation (which in Wonkie’s book incidentally makes you an extremely high-thinking person – and no sarcasm about that… kudos!), Wonkie’s point is only that if something you value was wrongly associated with something negative, you would also likely react (unless you’ve reached Buddha status already in which case Wonkie bows humbly and requests that we chat soon!). Substitute your reputation in Wonkie’s example with something you value – perhaps the reputation of a child or family member you hold dear… if somebody unfairly attacked them, wouldn’t it upset you?

            Again, Wonkie does not have anything at all against religious cartoons – Hindu, Muslim, or otherwise. Wonkie does have something against wrongful association though, and that is what this article is about.

  7. I think that was a brilliant piece well articulated. Perhaps more importantly Lord Ganesh has nothing to do with Logart as he is Moslem or the BCCI, given that not all BCCI members are Hindus. I am sure Zapiro wouldnt dare depict Islam in a derogatory manner lest we will have another Nairobi Mall in SA. Yeah, I agree that the quality of Zapiro’s work have dramatically declined- perhaps its the life span of self righteous persons. lastly, I wonder what would the scenario be if he resided outside the borders of SA. He should be glad that the constitution of SA which many of those he has previously ridiculed fought for now protects him

  8. Devlyn is right. India is a Hindu state and cricket is almost a second religion to the majority.
    Jews and Catholics are normally the butt of many religious jokes yet, unless blasphemous, most adherents of those faiths are quite willing to propagate the jokes.
    Muslims, on the other hand, are mostly extremely intolerant of any perceived slight. Unfortunately until they stand up to and condemn Abu Sayyaf, Al Qaida, Boko Haram and a huge host of other terrorist Muslim organisations that bring their religion into disrepute, they will have to suffer that indignity.

    • Tony, to be clear, Wonkie is all for making Hindus the butt of jokes – they deserve it as much as any other religion. This is not the point of this article though. The issue here is about the context – if you wrongly associate negative things with somebody or an organisation even, you are engaging in some form of slander or libel. Zapiro is doing that here with a religion. If the Hindu religion was the primary motivating factor behind what happened, then Wonkie would certainly not be raising as much of a fuss – but it wasn’t, Zapiro is quite happily implying that it was though – and that is wrong.

  9. Tony, you deserve a longer reply, I will send one after a few more comments have been sent in. Suffice it to say that you included so many Muslim fundamentalists that you are probably on a NSA watch list.

  10. Wonkie, I understand that neither religious symbols nor religious sensitivities have anything to do with cricket. The problem that I see is that a political and societal commentator such as Jonathan Shapiro cannot be restrained by common prejudices from using symbols to express themselves. Could you or Wonkie readers have expressed your or themselves better in a cartoon?
    I am sure that certain readers will accuse me of Islamophobia but I can assure them that I harbour no antagonisms towards ANY racial, religious or political groups. My condemnations are restricted to those (and their silent supporters) that use race, religion or politics to propagate indiscriminate mayhem on their fellow citizens.

  11. To set the cat among the pigeons once again, Tom’s comment deserves a reply.
    I may be wrong but it seems implicit that Tom is referring to the ANC or to Zuma when he comments on “those he has previously ridiculed”.
    “The constitution of SA which many of those…. fought for” is not a legacy that cannot be destroyed. In fact many senior ANC elite have already called for its revision and its scrapping is inevitable as we progress to a dictatorship.
    Anyone who saw Dov Fedler’s cartoon in Friday’s (25 Oct) The Star where Jacob Zuma shows Riah Phiyega his list of ‘Head of crime intelligence’ possibilities while saying “This is just my preferred short list, but if you’re not happy, there’s a bunch more waiting at ‘SUN CITY'”
    ‘Sun City’ refers to Johannesburg Medium C Prison and the inference is that Zuma is determined to appoint a corrupt or a criminal person as head of the SAPS Crime Intelligence department, a view held by many. Contrary to a court ruling on the matter, the SA Police Service is determined to overturn the ruling and withdraw charges of criminal activity, fraud and corruption charges (without judicial investigation) against Richard Mdluli and reappoint him as head of Crime Intelligence. Such a travesty of justice could only result either by the threat of position or job loss by the upper echelon in the SAPS or by direct intervention by No.1.
    Changing the name of Police Force to Police Farce was too obvious so they went with Police Service which, in many instances, now equates our Service delivery.
    Competent persons can no longer be appointed as judges for fear that they might preside at a future trial when Zuma is deposed. Even the evil Maharaj has lost the plot with his “taken out of context” explanations (was he ever prosecuted for his own alleged misdeeds?).
    These and many other anomalies prove that we are no longer the rainbow nation and that “a better life for all'” was a slogan to entice voters but not a desire for the hoped for betterment of South Africa, post apartheid.

  12. Mario d'Offizi says

    I love Zapiro’s cartoons – especially the ‘controversial’ ones – this is what satire, at best, is all about. However, in this instance, I believe Zapiro overstepped the mark. I got that ‘feeling’ when I saw it on the day it was published; before even a hint of any protest began. Perhaps, as suggested in your article, he had nothing else clever enough to say. Perhaps he was stumped…

  13. I must firstly admit that I did not know who Lorgat is, so I could not work out why they were sacrificing him. Then I could not work out why this person had to be sacrifice to an Indian (Hindu) god. The cricket bat gave me sort of an idea what it was all about, but I still struggle to get SA Cricket, Lorgat and an Hindu god together. I have to agree that Zapiro lost the plot with this one, sadly, in the proses “angered” the Hindu followers. I know now who Lorgat is, but still do not understand why Cricket SA sacrificed him. Maybe it is because I do not worship rugby or cricket or for that matter any other sport. To me it is just a sport, nice to watch, nice if my team wins, but at the end of the day NOT all that important. There are more important things to worry about than what sportsmen do (or don’t do). As my father use to say: … “there is a lot of hungry children in Africa.” An issue that are much more important than winning a game of sport.

  14. It could be that a hint was made towards the religious hypocrisy of the day where everyone is holier than thou but when it comes to money- things changes quickly for the cricket gambling loving plebs.

  15. Joesoap is correct about the profit motive. Indian cricket makes most of its money from incoming tours and because they don’t make too much touring South Africa and they generally lose their games here. They don’t want that humiliation so they want to give us (and other cricket playing nations) a miss.
    To use Ganesha in this context is hypocritical as he is a divinity that is welcoming so maybe the refusal to undertake a long tour is also hypocritical. Zapiro in this context may be right.
    But then all religion is hypocritical does no one read Darwin?

    • Also recommend “The Greatest Show on Earth” and “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins.
      Then the latest by Jared Diamond, “The history of the World, up until yesterday”.

  16. Zapiro, I wish you could see how many of your books I have on my bookshelf and understand that, without seeing the cartoon, I defended you by relying on your intellect which you have displayed previously. However, it saddens me that I can defend you no longer. My question to you is, “Would you have used Jesus in a similar context ? Or how about Allah ?” Do you have any understanding about the depth of what you have implied ? This is the stuff that wars/genocides/segregation is made of. In a country where we are trying to integrate ourselves with so many other people of different cultures, by offending a particular group you do not condemn them, YOU CONDEMN YOURSELF my friend – to a very lonely life ! In the spirit of Hinduism, I forgive you – even though you haven’t apologised – because that’s what Hinduism teaches and I for one am a Hindu regardless of what your misunderstanding about the religion is.

  17. Preba, except for a few misguided Hindus, people who follow Hinduism are very tolerant, there are almost no aggressive fundamentalists. But we fool ourselves that we are trying to integrate ourselves with people of other cultures. There are those who try and there is a majority that doesn’t want to and a whole lot who don’t care. The famous painting of JZ with a dick hanging out, the controversy over the Westville boys paintings demonstrate that this government and its lackeys don’t want to understand a fundamental part of western culture namely freedom of expression.

    • Hi Garth, I don’t agree with you that freedom of expression is a part of ‘western culture’. I think it is global and the natural progression that the world is moving towards and I have no problem with freedom of expression but let’s not poke at ambers that have not burned. The JZ painting, which was banned by the way, I feel was totally relevant and had a lot to do with his polygamous nature. That same reasoning and thinking was not applied to the Zapiro cartoon. There is no correlation between the use of Lord Ganesha and the issue he was dealing with, hence the uproar.

      • a-maize-ingly-corny says

        At the risk of repeating myself: “… a powerful symbol of India (not just of Hinduism) …” – please note A SYMBOL OF INDIA – not merely of Hinduism – just as Jesus on Sugarloaf Mountain is a symbol of Rio de Janeiro and of Brazil.

  18. Preba, you need to lighten up a little.
    Many cartoons have the Jewish Star of David in them and those few Jews that take exception to the use of a symbol are chided by their fellow Jews for their sensitivity. Jews laugh at themselves and Zapiro probably fails to understand why others can’t.
    Most Christians and especially Catholics ignore what some perceive as slights.
    Cartoons ragging Muslims are commonplace but no controversy results because the intelligent defenders of Islam understand that the extremists amongst them deserve all the censure that they get.
    So why must the Hindus consider themselves different from the rest of us?
    Provide an outline for a cartoon that Zapiro should have used in order not to cause offence to Hindus because he couldn’t come up with one. Did he intend to offend your religion or was he drawing a cartoon to show the new religion of money bedeviling the Indian cricket scene.

  19. Get real. You can’t offend all of the people all of the time. If you can offend some of the people some of the time ! ! ! !

  20. I don’t want to comment on his cartoon, but on his response to people’s reaction. He said he wanted to give the average south african reader something to relate their feelings through, but his making grave assumptions about the general public. It feels like his reducing the SA citizens to being very prejudice, narrow minded and insolent people (if the cartoon was created to represent public opinion).

    Bad move on his part, but I still think the guy is cool. Jus getting carried away.

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